Tag Archives: 12 Hours

12 Hours of Sebring

12 Hours of Sebring 2018 – Preview

The 2018 sportscar racing season is heating up again after the big endurance races which populate January and early February. This weekend sees the 66th running of the world-famous 12 Hours of Sebring, and it’s set to be a corker, with a big entry and quality oozing from each class. It has not got the sheer numbers of the Rolex 24, or the same number of F1 talent in the field, but what it has got is intrigue up and down the field and one of the most iconic settings in endurance racing. Once again Travel Destinations customers have travelled to be track-side for the 12 Hours of Sebring for what will be sure to be another action-packed race, with lots of entertainment both on and off the track.

Our man in the stands takes a look at what we we can expect from this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring:

Can Action Express go two out of two?
It’s almost too easy to predict another big win for the Cadillac DPi V.R this weekend. The car, even with its new engine for this season, has both the performance and reliability to topple the other major runners. With the majority of the focus on the Prototype ranks at each IMSA meeting, many will ponder the potential for another team or manufacturer to take a big win. Action Express scored a historic 1-2 at Daytona in January, and did so in distance record shattering fashion. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, there’s surely the potential for a repeat with its two Cadillac DPi V.Rs back with an almost identical set of drivers; the only change being Stuart Middleton departing the team after his (impressive) one off drive as a prize for winning the Sunoco Challenge.

12 Hours of Sebring
So who can challenge? Well, obviously Wayne Taylor Racing will be hoping to first of all get points on the board after retiring from the Rolex 24, and second, take another big 12 Hours of Sebring win. But WTR is another Cadillac team. Outside of the GM brand’s representation, you’d have to point towards Acura Team Penske and or ESM for a potential upset. Acura Team Penske impressed mightily in its return to sportscars at Daytona, its Acura ARX-07s was in the mix throughout. Only small niggles dropped them down the order towards the end of the race. They’ve got what clearly looks like a good base package as well as a high calibre selection of drivers and team personnel to do it.

ESM on the other hand, had a miserable Daytona with its pair of Nissan DPis. But let’s not forget that towards the end of last season, which wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of things, the plucky American privateer outfit hit its stride and won Petit Le Mans. Don’t be surprised if the former FIA WEC outfit features on Florida’s bumpiest circuit!

Is there any hope for Mazda?
When discussing potential winners, it’s easy to forget the Mazda contingent in the Prototype field, and for good reason; it has been another tough start to the season for the Japanese marque.
Mazda Team Joest will be highly motivated for a strong showing at the 12 Hours of Sebring, after both of its updated RT24-Ps failed to impress on pace, and retired from the Rolex 24. If anyone knows how to turn a ship around, and win big is Ralf Juttner and the Joest team, but this may be a tall order.

12 Hours of Sebring
The car, which struggles at higher-speed circuits, just hasn’t been up to the task, even after months of aero, cooling and suspension work in the teams self-imposed long off season. To make matters worse, the Joest team was forced to pack up early after a fire for its No.55 in the pre-event test. Any sort of result would be massive here, as the belief inside camp Mazda is still positive for the future. On Joest’s first run in the event since 2013, a win isn’t expected, though fans in the stands would be overjoyed if the team had a good run.  Will we have to wait until Long Beach, where the track is tight and the race is short, to truly see what the updated RT24-P is made of?

BMW aiming for a better run for the M8
This time round, GTLM could very well be anyone’s game, after Ford’s dominant formation run in Daytona, the rule makers have pledged to tighten the field with the pre-Sebring Balance of Performance. This comes after BMW’s dispute with IMSA at the Rolex 24 (which went public), where its M8 GTLMs struggled on their competitive debut against the other marques on pace. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, BMW has been given a power boost and an extra two litres of fuel, while Ford has had two taken away. Whether or not that will make this a dogfight between all five makes remains to be seen, but it should nevertheless be a step in the right direction. If BMW, and Porsche’s 911 RSRs – which also had a rough Daytona – can fight for the win, it will only add to the spectacle of this year’s once-around-the-clock classic.

12 Hours of Sebring
Corvette looking to break records

Lovers of loud, yellow, GT machinery will be pleased to know that on what is likely to be the final 12 Hours of Sebring for the Corvette C7.R GTE, there is a lot to play for. Corvette Racing, which will of course be in the mix for yet another big title, will hope to mount its challenge on Ford with another big win at Sebring. Chip Ganassi’s Ford crew may be the favourites after dominating at Daytona, but if Corvette takes the fight to the ‘Blue Oval’, and wins, it will be its fourth consecutive Sebring victory.

12 Hours of Sebring
For its drivers there’s some key milestones to keep an eye on. Corvette’s Jan Magnussen is making his 20th 12 Hours of Sebring start, (elsewhere BMW’s Bill Auberlin is making his 25th) and British ace Oliver Gavin, has the most class wins of anyone in the field, and will be gunning for his seventh victory at the historic circuit this year. Corvette Racing meanwhile has the most Sebring class wins of anyone else in the IMSA field, with 11, and will look to add to that tally here.

Can Land get revenge in GTD?
Those who followed GTD at Daytona will remember the controversy surrounding the Land Motorsport penalty. The German team, which was leading the GT3-based class by a healthy margin, got pinged by the organisers for fuelling quicker than the other teams. But, IMSA in this case penalised the team in error, its Audi R8 LMS GT3 and fuel rig passing tech inspections before and after the race. Land Motorsport, which won last year’s Nurburging 24, and has an ADAC GT Masters title to its name in its short time as a premier Audi customer team, will be out for revenge this weekend.

12 Hours of Sebring
Even if it does spend the same amount of time re-fuelling as everyone else this time round, they’ll have a shot at the win. The team has shaken up its driver crew for this one though, Alessio Clemente Picariello joining the team, while Kelvin van der Linde and Jeff Schmidt sit the race out. In response to the Daytona incident, it’s notable that IMSA has announced that it will be implementing minimum refuelling times from Sebring onwards to prevent a repeat of the events. For Sebring, the GTD minimum will be 40 seconds, in GT Le Mans it will be 34, and in Prototype, it’s set at 30.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

For those thinking ahead, the Sebring 2019 promises to be a special event. Not only will the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring take place as usual, but the FIA WEC Super Season will also race on the same weekend. Effectively there will be two 12 hour races taking place in just 26 hours at Sebring 2019. For those wishing to be at the 2019 event, we recommend booking early. Travel Destinations has already contracted some accommodation for Sebring 2019 and provisional bookings are already being made. Call the Travel Destinations team on 0844 873 0203 to find out more and reserve your place at Sebring 2019.

 

Bathurst 12 Hours

Bathurst 12 Hours 2018 Preview

Our international racing season continues, as Travel Destinations customers are currently arriving in Bathurst, Australia. The Bathurst 12 hours has gone from strength to strength in recent years and this year’s field looks like it will provide another exciting race. Our guests will be enjoying the race from air conditioned hospitality whilst the drivers brave the heat and the unforgiving Mount Panorama circuit. Here we look at some of the key story-lines for this year’s race:

The Continental GT3’s final ride
This year’s Bathurst 12 Hours may prove to be the last hurrah for Bentley’s current Continental GT3. The car, which has been run by the Crewe-based marque since 2014, has yet to win at Mount Panorama (but came so, so close back in 2015 and 2016, and will have one last try to win it all this time before the new car arrives later in the year.

Bathurst 12 HoursThe two Bentleys on the entry will be run, as ever, by newly crowned WRC champion M-Sport, which brings a slew of factory talent to the Mountain. In the No.17, Steven Kane will race with 2003 Le Mans winner Guy Smith and newcomer Jules Gounon, who moves over from the Callaway Corvette programme which won the 2017 ADAC GT title. And in the No.18, Andy Soucek is back, with Maxime Soulet and Vincent Abril, who is beginning his second season as a ‘Bentley Boy’ this year. It is certainly one of the older cars, out there, which in reliability terms is often a plus, but in just about every other department can be a hindrance. The size, and straight-line speed which the Continental GT3 is known for has always suited Mount Panorama though. A win here would be the car’s perfect send off.

Will this be Audi’s year
Audi, through each generation of its GT and prototype machinery, has kept on winning the big races, so the fact that the current R8 LMS hasn’t taken a Bathurst victory is somewhat of a surprise. The current R8 may well be the best GT3 car out there still in terms of drivability, reliability and speed. And because of that it’s won the Nurburgring 24 Hours, Spa 24 Hours and multiple championships across the globe. It’s big race left to win is therefore Bathurst, so for this year, Audi Sport has gone all out, and will run with the most GT3 cars in the race (six), with three of those in the Pro class.

Bathurst 12 HoursThe big name entries here come from local team Jamec Pem Racing and Belgian ‘Super Team’ WRT. In the former’s two R8s, Supercars fan favourite, and former Bathurst winner Garth Tander will race with the experienced hands of Audi Sport drivers Kelvin Van der Linde and Frederic Vervisch in the No.22, while Chris Mies, Chris Hasse and Markus Winkelhock make for a potential world-beating German trio in the sister No.74. The team knows the circuit, and up against a lot of new teams, that could be key in them finishing high up the order.

WRT meanwhile, will be making its Bathurst debut for the first time this year, and therefore eager to add a Bathurst victory to its enormous trophy cabinet which includes big wins across Europea.. Its No.37 car will run with Formula E driver Robin Frijns, long-time GT3 man Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor, brother of Porsche factory ace Laurens. It’s a pacey combination.

What can we expect from Strakka’s debut?
Of the other marques represented in the 26-car-strong GT3 entry for Bathurst, Mercedes headline entry may be the most interesting. The Stuttgart-based brand will support Strakka Racing at this year’s 12 Hour, the former Le Mans class winner and WEC team, which moves to pastures new after a torrid first year in GT3 racing last year with McLaren. For its new programme with Mercedes, Strakka has reduced its effort from four cars last year, to two, in an effort to put as much focus as possible. It’ll contest the entire Intercontinental GT Challenge with the pair of AMG GT3s – so Bathurst will therefore be a really important race for the season, the Aussie classic the IGTC season opener.

Bathurst 12 HoursIn its two cars, the stronger crew is undoubtedly in the #56 car, which will run with former Spa 24 Hours winners Maxi Buhk, Maxi Gotz and McLaren refugee Alvaro Parente in the cockpit. The other features team owner Nick Leventis, his young partner in crime Lewis Williamson, Cameron Waters and David Fumanelli, who joined the team in Blancpain in 2017.

Strakka’s only issue is its lack of experience with the car. It has been out testing at Silverstone and over in Spain, but has yet to race the AMG GT3. It’ll be a real baptism of fire, Bathurst not being the easiest track to learn, set up a car for and compete on!

M4 GT4’s debut
Anyone who’s watched the race before, will know that Bathurst 12 Hour is not a GT3-only race, the organisers welcoming variety with open arms. Outside of the GT3 ranks this year, there’s three other classes, one reserved for Cup cars, one for GT4s, and an Invitational category for just about anything else. In GT4, a category which worldwide is growing at a stunning rate, there’s a trio of brand new BMW M4 GT4s entered. The car, which raced last year with BMW as a factory as part of its development, is now a full customer car, and will make its debut ‘down under’ at Bathurst.

Bathurst 12 HoursThe big entry here comes from BMW Team SRM (which is factory supported) with Dean Grant, Xavier West and Cameron Hill making up its line-up. However, the other M4 GT4 teams in the running also look strong, MarcGT, Baigent Motorsport and Boat Works Racing eager to show off their new bits of kit.The key drivers among those are Kuno Wittmer racing with MarcGT, Matt Brabham (the third generation driver in his family set to take on the Mountain after grandfather Jack and father Geoff) and Aaron Seton who won the class in 2016, both driving with Boat Works.

Up against Ginettas, KTMs, and a Porsche, it’ll be an intense battle for the class honours, will the M4 GT4 – a flagship GT4 car from the new generation – be up to the task?

A wide open Invitational entry
The Invitational Class for this year’s once-around-the-clock race is stacked with interesting entries. Made up mostly of privately developed Australian MARC Cars – big, beefy V8 Focus’, Mazda’s and new for this year, Mustangs too. And if that doesn’t grab your attention enough, then note that Class I is home to Daytona Sportscars older machinery too.

Bathurst 12 HoursThis year Daytona Sportscars brings a pair, a single Coupe and Viper, the later let’s not forget is both superb to look at and quick, finishing fifth in class last year. Both will be fan favourites, and bring, as always, variety to an already diverse field. What’s fun about the Invitational class, is that it’s fast, furious, and taken very seriously by those involved. The cars all look great, sound great too, and are a big part of what makes the event special.

Keep an eye out. As the sun rises over Mount Panorama the competition will be hot!

Bathurst 12 Hours

If you would like to join Travel Destinations at the Bathurst 12 Hours 2019, you can register by emailing Travel Destinations now.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar